Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #21 was released this week, beginning part one of a new story arc by writer Andrew Chambliss titled ‘The Core.’ Chambliss’ story lives up to its name, featuring heavily on character-driven scenes between Buffy, Xander, and Willow. Benefited by the talented hands of artist Georges Jeanty, this issue easily features the most “classic” Buffy-esque moments that we’ve seen between the core characters in Buffy: Season 9 so far. That said, it also features that “classic” Buffy-esque foreboding feeling that happens right before the @#$% hits the fan.


Here’s a quick summary of Issue #21:

This issue opens with Willow attempting to use her magic to restore Dawn. Buffy, trying to give Willow room to work, is sitting on the front curb outside Dawn and Xander’s place when Xander teleports in front of her, courtesy of Severin. Badly beaten, he tells Buffy about the offer Simone and Severin made him to save Dawn and how he pretended to go along with it so her could get the inside scoop on their plans.

Willow is finally able to wake Dawn, but she still looks sickly and has begun losing her memories. Willow fears that she’s only bought the girl a few days, and they need more magic if they’re going to save her. Xander recommends looking in the “Vampyr” book Simone wanted and after a little research, Buffy, Willow, and Xander are off to The Deeper Well.

Shortly after they leave, Spike arrives at the apartment. Billy and Anaheed tell him that Buffy just left, but he states that he came to be with Dawn. When he goes to her side and takes her hand, Dawn turns to him and asks, “Do I know you?”

After a short trip on Kennedy’s private jet, the Scoobies show up at the European entrance to The Deeper Well where D’Hoffryn and about forty other demons stand ready to “protect magic from everyone.” In true slayer style, Buffy says, “Bring it.”

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of The Deeper Well, located in New Zealand, we find the sentient balloon ordering its fellow demons to head towards the other entrances, as it is under attack, leaving the balloon to protect the entrance. As the demons leave, Severin and Simone are revealed nearby, prepared to attack based of information the Xander gave them!

The Good

The return of the Scoobies (I hope). So far, ‘The Core’ has been the perfect title for where we are at this point in the story. After nearly a season of enduring the fracture of the relationships we know and love between Buffy, Willow, and Xander, they felt like their old selves this issue. Chambliss nailed the voice of each character and how they interact, and Jeanty provides the perfect visuals to make the moments hit the way they need to. While Willow and Buffy seem to be healing the distance between them, it remains to be revealed whether Xander is truly betraying his friends or playing Simone and Severin for their benefit. I will say, given Xander’s touching comments about how Buffy died for Dawn before and that’s what kept him from betraying her, it would be especially cold for Xander to plot against her. No need to rub salt in the wound, Xand!

Chock full of visual geek references. Thanks to Xander’s apartment being used as a location for many of the scenes. This man’s geekery rivals my own!

Oh, hai, Demon Illyria! Ol’ Blue’s original form has a cameo during the discussion of The Deeper Well. Always nice to see old friends.

Oh, hai, Sentient Balloon. Yeah, it’s back, too. (Joy!)

The Bad

Xander . . . what are you doing? While I certainly feel that Xander’s apparent betrayal of Buffy definitely seems like it’ll end badly, I, like many readers, felt my “spider sense” tingling during this issue. Xander’s teaming with Severin and Simone seems to smell quiet sharply of red herring, but if Xander really is betraying his best friends, we know there will be consequences. Last season, this feeling began to creep in, and we ended up losing Giles. Who will be lost to us after this season?

The Ugly (Fan Buzz, that is . . . )

Fan reaction for this issue seems to be mostly positive. The book also got a good (and drama-heavy) review from Light_Watcher.

Spike hearts Dawn. Spike’s scene this issue seemed to resonate with nearly everyone. Along with showing the advancement of his character since his miniseries, Spike’s devotion to the dying Dawn seem to pull all the right heart strings.

To betray or not betray . . . One forum post suggested that Xander may end up following a Wesley-type path where his betrayal isolates him from the group and forces the character down a darker path. I’m not sure if this is something I’d want to read, but it’s an interesting theory.

Giles hated Fred. One forum post stated this upsetting message:

I’m kinda bummed that what lies in The Deeper Well was written in the Vampyr book and still, Giles didn’t want to help Fred’s situation back in AtS S5 🙁

I’m sure Giles had his reservations about helping someone from Wolfram & Hart, but it does paint a very cold image of the fallen watcher.

That’s all for now, Scoobies! Keep those stakes sharp!

’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer

If you’re craving more goodies from the Whedon comic-verse to feed you addiction, then don’t miss my “Comic Patrol” posts every Friday at www.whedonopolis.com! “Comic Patrol” is a regular weekly feature pointing out articles, previews, and tidbits relating to the Whedon comic-verse, and it’s hosted by your friendly neighborhood Comic Book Slayer! I’ll see you there, comic book sniffers!

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